If you’re experiencing wrist pain during the bench press, it’s time to address it. Don’t worry, this ailment is pretty common and probably happens to 8 out of 10 lifters. However, that doesn’t mean that it should be left untreated. There are plenty of tricks and exercises that you can use to get rid of the pain, but that won’t fix the real issue. When doing the bench press, a lot of stress can be put on the wrist joint, depending on how heavy the weight you’re using is, and if you’re not lifting with correct form, this could lead to permanent wrist damage.
The first rule in the book is this: if you can’t grip it, you can’t lift it. As simple as that. In other words, before you start lifting you have to make sure that your grip is strong and adequate to the mechanics of the lift you’re attempting to perform. And a proper bench press grip relies on good wrist stability and grip strength. But that’s not nearly enough to ensure correct form and a safe and efficient performance.
So let’s see what you can do to fix the real cause of your wrist pain, instead of only delaying it and making things worse.
Stop Benching with Bent Wrists
Wrist wraps and wrist curls can temporarily alleviate wrist pain but they won’t fix its cause. And the root of almost all bench press ailments is bad form, period. Now, if you’re a serious lifter, you already know that the safest way to bench press is with straight wrists. If you let them bend back, the weight will easily stretch them past their normal range of motion, resulting with pain.
In addition, bent wrists make it a whole lot harder to bench press, because the force you generate when you press the bar can’t go straight into it like it does when your elbows, wrists and the bar form a straight line. As with any other movement, proper form is what matters the most when it comes to both effectiveness and safety. If you damage your wrists, your lifting career will end before it even really began, so it’s very important to correct your form and technique as soon as possible and avoid injury. Most people get wrist pain because they grip the bar wrong, which causes their wrists to bend, no matter how hard they try to straighten them.
To fix it, grip the bar low in your hands (griping it too high causes your wrists to bend), close to your wrists, keeping them straight, and wrap your thumbs around the bar using the full grip. Squeeze the bar hard so it can’t move in your hands. The goal basically is to have your wrists and elbows aligned with the bar and your forearms vertical to the floor, so that the bar rests directly over your forearm bones. This should take care of any wrist problems and enable you to increase your bench press.
Check Your Grip Width
Another popular cause for wrist pain is using a grip that’s too wide. Some people use a grip too wide for their build, while others take it to the extreme. Sure, some powerlifters bench wide to decrease the range of motion, but they use wrist wraps and bench shirts.
Regardless of what feels most comfortable to you, a wide grip will move your elbows out and put your wrists at an angle which excessively stresses the joints, as well being too hard on your shoulders. And to avoid pain, you need your wrists to stay right above your elbows. So first of all, check your grip width. If your wrists aren’t above your elbows, narrow your grip until your forearms become vertical.
Forget about the thumbless grip
The thumbless grip, otherwise known as the suicide grip, requires holding the bar with the thumbs on the same side as the fingers. It’s been used by a few famous bodybuilders because it feels more comfortable and places less stress on the wrists, but those advantages are not nearly enough to make up for its huge flaws, such as the dramatically increased likelihood of the bar dropping on your head and killing you on the spot. With the thumbless grip, the bar automatically rests lower in your hands and your wrists are forced to stay straight, resulting with zero pain and an increased power transfer from the forearms to the bar.
Of course, the pros with decades of training experience under their belts can get away with it, but that doesn’t make it justifiable and awesome. And if you believe that this is highly unlikely to happen to you, remember that it only takes once. Maybe one day you’ll be extremely tired, won’t be paying enough attention or won’t squeeze the bar hard enough, and it will start rolling mid-set.
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